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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Martel lawyer grills forensic expert about past evidence contamination

NASHUA – Defense attorneys grilled a state forensic expert about the four times his own DNA ended up on evidence in criminal trials during the second day of Harvey Martel’s sexual assault trial.

Kevin McMahon, a criminologist at the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory for more than 30 years, tested underpants Merrimack police recovered after a 14-year-old Molly Martel said her father had sexually assaulted her on Nov. 14, 2002. Under cross-examination by Harvey Martel’s defense attorney, public defender Steve Rosecan, McMahon detailed a handful of times his DNA was found on evidence he tested during criminal investigations dating back to the 1980s. ...

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NASHUA – Defense attorneys grilled a state forensic expert about the four times his own DNA ended up on evidence in criminal trials during the second day of Harvey Martel’s sexual assault trial.

Kevin McMahon, a criminologist at the New Hampshire State Police Forensic Laboratory for more than 30 years, tested underpants Merrimack police recovered after a 14-year-old Molly Martel said her father had sexually assaulted her on Nov. 14, 2002. Under cross-examination by Harvey Martel’s defense attorney, public defender Steve Rosecan, McMahon detailed a handful of times his DNA was found on evidence he tested during criminal investigations dating back to the 1980s.

Harvey Martel is charged with a single count of aggravated felonious sexual assault against Molly Martel. He was indicted for the second time in 2012, but his case was delayed while Molly Martel was prosecuted – and convicted – of second-degree murder in Manchester.

On Wednesday, McMahon testified he found evidence of saliva on the underpants police found in Molly Martel’s room following the alleged assault.

During his opening argument on Tuesday, Rosecan told jurors the male DNA on some of Molly Martel’s clothes cannot be trusted because of problems with the test performed at the state crime lab.

“Forensic testing has limits. Science has limits,” he said. “The forensic analysis does not fix Molly’s story.”

McMahon said Wednesday DNA that matched his DNA profile has been found on a suspect’s shirt he examined in the 1980s, on a sweatshirt and rope he examined in 2004 and 2009, respectively, and on a sleeping bag he examined in 2011. He said after the 2011 incident he was suspended from some work at the crime laboratory and that criminologists are now required to wear masks over their mouths and noses when conducting certain tests.

McMahon also said he got false positives on two proficiency tests in 2011 and 2013 similar to the test he performed on the underpants in 2002.

Molly Martel, 26, testified Tuesday that Harvey Martel pushed her onto a bed in the family’s Merrimack home on the afternoon of Nov. 14, 2002, and sexually assaulted her.

Harvey Martel was first charged in 2004 and was about to stand trial in 2008 when prosecutors dropped the charges after Molly Martel disappeared. He was re-indicted in 2012.

Molly Martel is serving a 20- to 40-year sentence at the New Hampshire State Women’s Prison in Goffstown after a jury convicted her of stabbing Stephanie Campbell in Manchester in November 2010. She was arrested in Kerhonkson, N.Y., two days after the murder.

Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karinne Brobst told jurors during her opening argument that they should not be distracted by what happened later in Molly Martel’s life but what her father is accused of doing more than a decade ago.

“I’m going to ask you to focus on 2002 because Molly is not on trial today,” she said. “Her father is.”

Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Charles Temple granted a defense motion barring prosecutors from suggesting there was any causal link between the murder and the sexual abuse Molly Martel accuses her father of. Temple said any discussion of the murder would be limited to issues around Molly Martel’s credibility as a witness.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).